Sunday, December 25, 2011

PS Bowl-A-Thon 2011: Independence Bowl in the family friendly city of Shreveport

The Where and When:
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA. Monday, December 26th, 5:00 ET ESPN2/ESPN3

The Who:
Missouri Tigers (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) vs North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5, 3-5 ACC)
The Why:
North Carolina lands in Shrevport as a result of the bowl’s tie-in with the ACC. Specifically, the Independence Bowl gets the 7th pick of ACC teams, and with Virginia Tech surprisingly chosen for an at-large BCS bid, the Tar Heels also benefited and find themselves heading to their fourth straight bowl game, looking to follow up last season’s bowl victory with similar success in lovely Louisiana.

The road for Missouri was considerably less straightforward since they were entirely passed over for any bowl game with a Big 12 affiliation (payback for leaving the Big 12 and heading to the SEC? I’ll wait until the inevitable Oliver Stone conspiracy to decide but it is interesting that Iowa State was selected for a Big 12 bowl game after finishing 6-6 and getting throttled by the Tigers during the season). Anyway, the Mountain West typically sends a team to Shreveport, but since C-USA didn’t have enough eligible teams and SDSU filled that spot, Mizzou was afforded the opportunity to head to SEC country for their bowl game.

What Smartypants Accounting Guy Would Tell You:
Missouri, behind Henry Josey at 8.1 yards per game, and multi-threat QB James Franklin (20 touchdowns throwing, 13 rushing) helped lead the Tigers to the 11th rated rushing attack in the nation at about 236 yards per game. However, Josey was hurt late in the season and although Missouri managed a couple wins to close out the season, replacing his production will be a key to the game. But, doing so against the Tar Heels will be a difficult task, as they rank 14th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 106 per game on the ground.

On the flip side, Carolina’s offense averaged around 397 yards per game, with 249 coming through the air (42nd in the country) and 147 on the ground (70th in the country). The rushing attack is led by Giovani Bernard, who tallied 1,222 yards as well as quarterback Bryn Renner, who completed 69% of his throws. They’ll be facing a Missouri defense that surrenders about 135 yards per game on the ground and 247 through the air. In other words, the yards that Missouri surrenders per game are about the same as what UNC compiles.

Not surprisingly, the statistics between these two teams are pretty close, since they both come in at 7-5 and neither has really stood out for anything other than Carolina weathering the Butch Davis scandal and Missouri dealing with their coach going on a bender and then foolishly trying to drive home. I know they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity but you have to imagine the Board of Regents at these schools isn’t going to put either of those headlines on their press guide next year.

Pool Prognosticators Pattern:
I used to live in North Carolina and even partied one Halloween on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. But, my grandparents live right by the Missouri boarder and I’ve seen the St. Louis arch many times. Then again, I met my future wife while living in North Carolina (but she’s a Duke fan…I’m not sure how that’s relevant other than to say – does anybody really like Duke? And does that mean I shouldn’t want Carolina to win? My head hurts). Of course, many of my fellow bloggers are from the great state of Missour-a. Oh wait, that might not be a good thing. I guess the final straw would be the time I spent the night in the great metropolis of St. Joe’s, MO. Although still too difficult to talk about, after that ordeal, I just can’t pick anything Missouri related. Go Heels!

Vegas Edge:
Missouri started out as about a 3.5 point favorite but the line has since moved to closer to 5, as all the money poured in for the Tigers. For the season, both Missouri and Carolina finished 6-6 ATS, although specific to bowl games, Missouri is 1-4 ATS as a favorite in their last 5 while Carolina is 19-9 as an underdog.

Sweatpants Verdict:
This seems to be a game between two relatively evenly matched teams. And, when that’s the case the biggest factor in deciding who wins is often the team that wins the turnover battle. Although this game could certainly go either way, regardless of the ultimate winner, I think it’ll be close and decided by a late turnover and field goal. While I’m not willing to go as far as to say the turnover, field goal, and win will go Carolina’s way, as mentioned, it should be a close game, so jump on the points (besides it’s always more fun to cheer for the underdog). Along those lines, I’ll say that Coach Pinkel hits the Shreveport casinos for some cocktails and dreams as Missouri leaves LA with a 31-28 win.

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